The linebacker from Philadelphia organized student-athletes to participate in this year’s Dance Marathon benefiting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. He’s also the go-to guy for music recommendations – and horror film production.
I’m happy I had a chance to see David Williams before he passed away. Since he was retiring, I told him thank you for everything he’s done. I told him thank you for upholding everything Vanderbilt stands for.
You would see him at every game. You saw him traveling with the team. He wasn’t just an administrator behind a door. He supported us to the best of his ability. It makes you want to give back in the same way, to be the best on and off the field because that was ultimately a reflection of him and Vanderbilt.
I started a program called Dancing Dores this year. I had attended Vanderbilt University’s annual Dance Marathon and stayed at the the entire event for 13 hours. I danced with some kids, but there are other events going on. It’s like a carnival, bouncy houses, so many things, arts and crafts. As much fun as you can have for these hours, and you can’t sit down.
Some student-athletes came but there was not an official partnership. I just saw the gap and thought I could bring that to the table. I got an internship with the lady who coordinates all the Dance Marathons for Middle Tennessee and we put together the Dancing Dores program. Dance Marathon is this Saturday on campus, and Athlete Hour is from 5 to 6 p.m.
We’ve been fundraising this entire season and competing against other teams. That’s the whole idea. Getting student-athletes involved in a different away. Every team has a page and you get your family and friends to fundraise as much money as possible. Football is winning now with a little over $8,000 so far. I’m really happy about it.
It benefits the kids who are treated at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. They actually come to the Dance Marathon so you see where your money is going. When I was there, I met the kids and parents and it touched me how you can see who you’re fundraising for and how it affects their lives. I actually went to one of the kids’ football scrimmages in the indoor practice facility a week or so later and it was cool. I wanted to get other people involved.
I grew up in Philadelphia. It’s a tough city. My mother and father worked extremely hard to provide for me and my two sisters. It’s a hard-nosed family, all about work and each other.
My dad owns a barber shop. It’s a classic black barbershop. You can get food, a haircut. Barbershops are like the social hub in those neighborhoods. You meet so many different people, hear so many stories. It’s a great place. It’s in the Uptown area right above North Philadelphia.
My high school was around the corner. School started at 10 a.m., so sometimes I’d be at the barber shop before school. I spent a chunk of my life watching my dad cut hair. I can’t cut hair, but I spent a lot of time in the barbershop.
I felt like Vandy was the perfect place for me in terms of academics and playing against the best competition. I’m somebody who likes to compete in the classroom and on the field, and I feel like it’s the best of both worlds. You get to go against the best students every day who are among the elite, and you play against the elite on Saturdays. I felt it was the best place for me to grow just as a person, not just as a football player.
I wasn’t open to the Southern hospitality when I first got here. I thought it was weird. People I don’t know would say hi to me. I wouldn’t say I’m all the way used to it, but I’m starting to be nicer to people I don’t know.
I guess I’m assimilating to Nashville. On campus I used to look at people like “Why are you looking at me, what do you want?” Just being a nicer person is something I’ve noticed as I’ve been here.
I’m studying Medicine Health and Society and Cinema and Media Arts. My concentration is global policies, dealing with the ins and outs of health care and the politics around it. I feel like it fits my personality. I’m interested in helping people and finding ways to be a part of change.
I took a screenwriting class. Kalija Lipscomb and I took two production classes together, including a horror class. We made horror movies, or sequences, playing on people’s fears and anticipation.
As a Vanderbilt student, I’ve had to figure out time management, setting priorities and understanding there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There are days you have two tests and papers due and you still have to get up at 5 a.m. to go practice. The biggest thing I’ve gained is being able to multitask and being able to flip that switch. When I’m at McGugin, I’m a football player. When I’m on campus, I’m a student.
I really enjoy music. I consider myself a music connoisseur. I listen to every type possible except for country. I search out music, find new music.
Some artists I’m into lately? The whole new Meek Mill album. He’s a Philadelphia guy. That’s going to be the hottest thing in the streets for a long time. I would say PartyNextDoor is an artist you should get into. Majid Jordan from Canada is a good artist. Daniel Caesar is a good artist to listen to. My mom started having to listen to New Edition at Christmas.
The best part of playing football at Vanderbilt is being a part of a brotherhood and understanding how that transfers to the field. The closer we are off the field transfers on the field. Literally to your left and to your right you have two people who are willing to go to the furthest extent to protect you and to get the wanted outcome which is winning. On defense it’s like us versus the world. Us versus a stadium and an offense. It’s how we rock out.
Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss